A tale of crime and punishment from a prizewinning writer.
A few years ago, Andy Rosenzweig, an inspector for the Manhattan District Attorney's office, was abruptly reminded of an old, unsolved double homicide. It bothered him that Frankie Koehler, the notoriously dangerous suspect, had eluded capture and was still at large. Rosenzweig had known the victims of the crime, for they were childhood friends from the South Bronx: Richie Glennon, a Runyonesque ex-prizefighter at home with both cops and criminals, and Pete McGinn, a spirited restaurateur and father of four. Rosenzweig resolved to find the killer and close the case. In a surprising, intensely dramatic narrative, Philip Gourevitch brings together the story of Rosenzweig's pursuit with a mesmerizing account of Koehler's criminal personality and years on the lam. A Cold Case carries us deep into the lives and minds, the passions and perplexities, of an extraordinary cop and an extraordinary criminal whose lives were entwined over three decades. Set in a New York City that has all but disappeared, and written with a keen ear for the vibrant idiom of the colorful men and women who peopled its streets, this is nonetheless a book for our times. Gourevitch masterfully transforms a criminal investigation into a searching literary reckoning with the forces that drive one man to murder and another to hunt murderers."
In 1970, a New York criminal named Frankie Koehler killed two men in cold blood, then disappeared. Over the decades, he was all but given up for dead. Nothing haunts a cop like loose ends, however, and 30 years later lawman and fugitive at long last crossed paths. Basing this book on his article of the same title, New Yorker staff writer and NBCC and L.A. Timesaward-winning author Gourevitch revisits this case. Gourevitch's first book (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda) dealt with the Rwandan genocide and that region's judicial vacuum; the scope here is smaller but, as Gourevitch shows, murder is a seemingly inescapable aspect of the human condition. In clean prose, the author follows former NYPD officer Andy Rosenzweig (now an investigator with the Manhattan D.A.'s office), who, like Koehler, was raised on the streets of postwar New York, a city that has all but disappeared except in the hands of capable writers. And Gourevitch lets his near-perfect pitch dialogue do much of the work. "I wouldn't kill anybody for money under any conditions.... That's a scumbag does that," Koehler says. The only jarring moments in this otherwise elegant and restrained narrative are the sudden intrusions of the pronoun "I." This residue of New Yorker style reminds readers that the material is not entirely fresh. But that is a minor complaint, for as Rosenzweig says, quoting a fellow officer, "Who speaks for the dead? Nobody. As a rule, nobody speaks for the dead, unless we do." Gourevitch has secured a place next to Rosenzweig in that lonely and all-important choir. 12 b&w photos.